Win one of five double passes to Chicken People!
I grew up in the world of poultry showing, so I’ve been looking forward to Chicken People in anticipation at seeing a much-loved subculture on celluloid, and with dread that it will be mocked.
In fact, director Nicole Lucas Haimes surprised me with her treatment of the tense and incestuous world of exhibition poultry. This movie was undoubtedly eccentric, yet still respectful, eschewing the hyperbole of a Best in Show for a more nuanced exploration of the character traits needed to pursue excellence via exhibiting, and the emotional sacrifices that come with dedication.
Haimes had an access-all-areas pass to a fowl’s life, from the perfunctory business that is chickens mating, to the miracle of chicks hatching, and the sadness when ‘a friend’ dies. Foremost, though, this is a human drama, revolving around three rival exhibitors in the lead up to the big competition.
Secrets are divulged about fowl washing, blowdrying and polishing as the owners prepare their most exceptional birds for the championship. Don’t expect tantrums and poor sportsmanship though, the human protagonists have plenty of quirks, but come through with depth and dignity.
The humour throughout is both subtle, such as the small poultry details that appear on all the outfits, and more overt, such as the bird primping before each show, or the responses when a group of exhibitors is asked if they like to eat chicken. “You got kids? You eat your kids?” replies one.
If you take away the big hair, this could have been shot here rather than the USA; the value of mentors, the array of breeds, the type of awards and all-important Standard of Perfection will be familiar to Aussies showing. And the motivations are universal.
“A cornerstone of happiness in life is the search for meaning and purpose,” Haimes says. “Chicken People portrays individuals who found this in an unusual place — breeding, raising and competing show birds.”
It seems that, win or lose, chickens can enrich your life in unexpected ways. “Chickens are a sanctuary,” says breeder Shari McCollough, “they help me be a brave person.”
I can’t argue with that, and my nine year old found this movie as thoroughly enjoyable as I did; another convert perhaps?
View the trailer here.
Want to start showing? You’ll need to adhere to the Australian Standards.
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